Cumberland Times-News

April 11, 2009

Laffey vs. Adenhart: A battle to the finish, a game for the ages

Mike Mathews

May 13, 2003



CUMBERLAND

Twenty years from now, half of the city will claim to have been at Allegany yesterday afternoon and will be telling the other half about the best pitched high school baseball game they ever saw.

So, let’s settle this thing right now, before it gets started. Half of the city wasn’t there. But the several hundred who were there, many standing two and three deep along Sedgwick Street, saw perhaps the most dominating pitching performances in a single game in Maryland high playoff history.

Allegany’s Aaron Laffey and Williamsport’s Nick Adenhart combined for 33 strikeouts and two walks. And despite the great number of strikeouts, Laffey (19 strikeouts) threw only 102 pitches, and Adenhart (14 strikeouts) threw only 82.

Both are now 6-1. Laffey, a senior who has yet to allow an earned run this season, fanned 10 of the first 11 batters he faced. Adenhart, who had a 1.37 ERA entering the game, whiffed 12 of the final 14 he faced.

The only run scored was unearned.

From every angle, it quickly became a game to watch, savor, and admire.

“It’s the best game I’ve ever worked,’’ said home plate umpire Jim Holler, who has been umpiring for more than 25 years. “I’ve worked games with good pitchers before, but not with two ... never with two of the caliber of those two. They were incredible. And you hate to see a kid lose with a no-hitter. But that’s baseball ... it’s just one of those things.

“I really enjoyed working the game. It’s a game I won’t forget, and in a few years both of those boys will be making some big-time money.”

Laffey is expected to be taken early in this year’s amateur draft. Adenhart was ranked the top junior prospect in the nation earlier this year by Baseball America magazine.

“I think they are the best two pitchers in the state,’’ said Williamsport coach Rob Steiner. “To get a draw like that, and have to face a pitcher like that,” he said of Laffey, “... it’s not really much of a reward for your regular season.

“But that’s going to happen. That’s baseball. Just one or two key plays can be the difference in a game. We tried to bunt, we tried to get runners on, but at some point someone has to step up and get a hit.”

No player, on either side, was able to avoid striking out. The only run was scored by Timmy King, who took one for the team. He was hit by a pitch that hit 84 on one of the major league scout’s radar guns, stole second and eventually scored on a squeeze bunt by Justin Bussard.

“It was probably the second-best game I’ve pitched this year. The first game of the year was a perfect game, and you can’t get any better than that,’’ said Laffey.

Behind the backstop, there were major league scouts from Arizona, Baltimore, Cleveland, Minnesota, San Diego, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston and the New York Yankees.

It’s been a common sight at Allegany games this year.

“I’ve gotten used to it,’’ said Laffey. “You just have to go out and throw and have fun. Relax, and just pitch. If you do that, things will fall in place.”

It takes courage to be a catcher, especially when the pitchers are throwing 90 miles per hour. Shane McDade has been Laffey’s personal catcher, and admitted the palm of his hand was hurting a little bit as he headed to the locker room.

“Today, it was an A-plus,’’ he said, grading Laffey’s performance. “I mean, everything he threw was nasty. Everything was pretty much perfect.

“His curve ball was probably the best it’s been all year. To catch Aaron is a privilege. He’s a great athlete and a great friend. It’s a challenge to catch him, but I don’t mind. It’s fun.”

Fun to watch, difficult to believe, and impossible to forget.

Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Contact Mike Mathews at mmathews@times-news.com.